Change is complex; change is continuous; change needs to be managed.
At Cheetah Transformation we work with organisations who are working hard to create new processes, new ways of working and implementing new systems. It’s easy to be focussed on the “doing” i.e. what the actual project is about and to forget that these can be seismic shifts to an organisation or team. If you are deeply involved, the change and its benefits are obvious to you, but an important part of your role is to help everyone else see, understand & believe that too.
There is a vast array of books, articles, training courses on the management of change of all sorts. This article is focussed the type we most commonly encounter planned, transitional change i.e. a change with a start, a middle and an end.
3 is the magic number
There are 3 key elements to effecting change, the diagram below explains what each encompasses.
Often so much effort goes in The Context and Content, that The Process is forgotten. Someone will do the practicalities e.g. making sure everyone has a login for a new system. But will as much time & energy be given to thinking about when/how to introduce the wider team to a new system; getting their input and feedback; helping them overcome their worries?
Not managing the change through a planned process has risks. Not engaging teams, the board, the end users etc can mean resistance to the change and can ultimately lead to failure of adoption. It is always worth taking the time to step back from the hurly burly and think about how to make a project land well with its user population.
Within the process there are 3 stages to think about:
|Stage 1 – Unfreezing||Stage 2 – Moving / Change||Stage 3 – Re-freezing|
|Starting to loosen the current state.|
The creation of what the future could look like
|This is the transition, the actual moving to the new ways.||Making changes stick in the new state|
Different thinking and activities are needed at each of these stages. Don’t forget stage 3 “Refreezing”, or before you know it, the organisation is back in its old ways.
Step by Step Change Management
First thing to say is that large scale change can get complicated. Keep everything as simple as possible. If not, there is a risk the initiative will collapse under its own complexity.
This guide is based on Kotter & Cohen’s 8 Steps of Change and will help you bring more effective change to your organisation.
- Create some urgency
Without this it is really hard to get moving, no one can see why the change is necessary. One of the best examples we’ve seen was a new-to-company CEO who, in front of a couple of hundred staff, shared some hitherto unseen financial measures from the previous few years. The numbers were bad, really bad and no one outside the board had any idea. After this, there was a big upswing in support for his improvement initiatives
- Put together a lead/guide team
These are the people who will shepherd the change through. Pick them wisely: they need credibility on the subject; to be well connected in the organisation; to have good reputations especially re: trust and they need to have the authority to get things done. It’s worth pausing to think about the more “awkward” colleagues at this point, if you can get one of them batting for the change team, the path could be smoothed immeasurably.
- Have a Vision & Strategy
Be sensible, keep it simple and clear. Have a positive vision and simple set of strategies.
Example: “To have an efficient global CAPEX approval process with submission to approval in 3 weeks. We will achieve this by: 1. Implementing a single, standardised set of documentation; 2. Clearly defining sign off process & levels of authority; 3. Initiating a routine, CAPEX approval forum”
- Effectively communicate
Arguably the most important step. Find the right balance between insufficient comms (resulting in confusion, loss of interest) & too much communication (resulting in weariness, loss of interest).
Emails & presentations don’t bring change by themselves, bring it to life by showing the problems and how the change makes a positive difference. However don’t promise the world, be honest about the positives and negatives.
If your organisation has a comms manager or PR agency then ask them to lean in.
Remember that actions speak louder than words.
- Remove barriers
Identify barriers to success and ask for the authority to remove them e.g. if outdated kit is a problem, ask for authority to purchase new for key users.
There could be people related barriers: training, confidence, disempowerment. Name these barriers and reach out to those who can help you overcome them.
- Get some short-term wins
This will give credibility and build up momentum. If your short terms wins can be to remove a barrier or two, even better.
- Don’t give up – ever
There will be setbacks and days when you feel you are a million miles away from success. Do not give up. Have an ordered list of the changes to be made/tasks to be done and tick them off. Momentum will build.
- Make it stick
Use a range of tools to socialise and codify the new ways. Super-users, clinics, ongoing upskilling will support use and eventually continuous improvement.
Use recognition and affirmation for the new ways and those who are striving to embed them. It doesn’t need to be as obvious as a gold star, a heart-felt thank you is always welcome.
Making change happen can be hard work. It is really important to take a step back and plan the process that you will follow to implement the change. It could make the difference between successfully landing a change and not landing it.
Using the steps above will help you land effective, enduring change that benefits your organisation. At Cheetah Transformation, when we work with clients on the implementation of Smartsheet solutions, we consider all the above aspects in order to build enduring change.
Lewin, K. 1951, Field Theory in Social Science. New York: Harper & Row
Kotter, J. & Cohen, S.D., 2002. Introduction: The Heart of Change in Kotter, J. & Cohen S.D. (eds) The Heart of Change. Boston Mass.: Harvard Business School Press pp 1-14
Tsoukas, H, 2011, Warwick Business School, IB9S30